The last 30 detainees at Guantánamo Bay, including men accused of plotting the September 11 attacks, are being held by the United States in conditions that constitute “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” under international law, it said. a United Nations human rights researcher. on Monday.
Fionnuala Ni Aolain, a Minnesota law professor who serves as special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, included the finding in a report from a four-day visit to the prison in February, which included meetings with an undisclosed number of inmates. and interviews with lawyers and ex-convicts. She released the report a month before her term as rapporteur ends.
She specifically cited the cumulative effects of inadequate health care, solitary confinement, coercive measures, and the use of force to remove prisoners from their cells as contributions to her conclusions. She said prison conditions “may also meet the legal threshold for torture”.
Ms. Aolain was the first United Nations investigator to gain access to the detention center in its two-decade history. She said in an interview that she met a cross-section of the 34 detainees who were there in February, including former CIA detainees facing criminal charges and others approved for transfer to other countries. Today there are 30 left.
As part of her mandate, Ms. Aolain has also met with families of victims of terrorism.
The report called the September 11, 2001 attacks “a crime against humanity.” But Ms. Aolain pointedly called the United States and its use of torture of the men now facing criminal charges at Guantanamo Bay “the main obstacle to the fulfillment of victims’ rights to justice and accountability”.
The torture, she said, “was a betrayal of the rights of the victims” of the 9/11 attacks.
In response, the Biden administration released a one-page defense of the detention operation, stating that current inmates at the Pentagon prison “live together and prepare meals together; receive specialized medical and psychiatric care; gain full access to legal advice; and communicate regularly with relatives.”
The report highlighted the case of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a former aide to Osama bin Laden, who is serving a life sentence “in isolation, expressing serious concerns about solitary confinement in violation of international law.” The prison plans to place him near other inmates for four hours a day, the report said, but may not stick to that plan.
Ms. Aolain presented the latest mounting international criticism of the health care provided to detainees, particularly the inadequacy of base facilities to treat “an aging, vulnerable population” and the absence of “comprehensive holistic torture rehabilitation” .
She urged the United States to establish an independent civilian health care program for prisoners tortured by the United States.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other prisoners accused of plotting the September 11 attacks are making a similar demand in negotiations started more than a year ago by prosecutors, who proposed that the men plead guilty in exchange for life in prison. prison, rather than facing a death penalty trial.
Ms. Aolain said the detainees have permanent disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and chronic pain – including joint, gastrointestinal and urinary problems – as well as untreated post-traumatic stress disorder. She blamed torture and rendition programs for some of the medical problems. She attributed some of them to prolonged detention, hunger strikes and force-feeding at Guantánamo Bay.
Ms Aolain’s visit was the first known visit by an independent observer to prison infrastructure since detention center staff dismantled media relations in April 2019.
Until this year, successive U.S. administrations had allowed only the Red Cross and defense attorneys to enter the facility and talk to the detainees. The Biden administration offered the rapporteur a visit as part of an initiative to more actively cooperate with UN human rights investigative bodies.
The report criticized the United States for failing to provide trauma treatment and guarantee the rights of more than 700 former Guantánamo detainees. Most have been repatriated, although some, mainly Yemenis, have been sent to other countries for resettlement.
She described the released prisoners as stigmatized by their detention, in some cases deprived of basic human rights and in need of reparations. She also pushed for reparations for current detainees and victims of terrorism, especially the children of September 11 victims, and said they should be allowed to pursue financial, educational, and trauma assistance as remedies a surviving parent might has waived.
The White House did not respond to Ms. Aolain’s comments on Monday. But President Biden released a statement noting that it was the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture and stating that the United States opposes all forms of inhumane treatment and our commitment to the elimination of torture and survivors of torture assist them in their healing and in their quests. for justice.”
Mr Biden criticized torture in Russia, Syria and North Korea, adding: “I call on all countries around the world to join me in supporting rehabilitation and justice for torture survivors and take action to end torture and inhumane treatment forever.”
However, Ms. Aolain argued emphatically that the United States had an obligation to address its legacy of torture. “There is no statute limiting torture,” she said. “Those who committed it, were involved in it, concealed it, remain liable for their entire lives.”